First-time writer and director Lola Quivoron's debut film, 'Rodeo', may have one of the more curious plots of the Melbourne International Film Festival line up, but its execution often stands in the way of an otherwise gripping story.
Julia (Julie Ledru) gets her kicks in a rather unconventional manner - meeting up with second-hand motorcycle sellers, handing over her bag as "insurance" while she takes the bike for a test drive, and speeding off without a trace. Desperate to find a place to fit in, she soon finds herself crashing in the headquarters of a local gang called the B-Mores, who steal and re-sell pimped-out bikes under the supervision of their incarcerated leader Domino (Sébastien Schroeder). Julia's very specific skill set is a welcome addition to the team, allowing her to break the bike gang glass ceiling; however, Julia's abrasive demeanour (and the general mistrust within the gang) ensures her road to acceptance as a B-More member is far from a smooth one. It makes for a film that presents at odds with itself, the optimism and ambition Julia grows in finally finding her place in the world riding right alongside the nihilism that comes from picking such a dangerous line of work. It's not going to end well, and the nightmares Julia has of a perished B-More member suggest she knows this too.
Stunt coordinator Mathieu Lardot, known for his incredible work on such films as the James Bond and 'Mission: Impossible' series, is criminally underutilised in this film. It's a downright baffling decision to bookend it with the most exciting stunts, especially when Julia's assimilation into the group should call for a ramping-up of wheelies and motorcycle wizardry. There's no build-up to the final heist, the on-road pursuit of a truck full of 2022 models, save for a few conversations about the gang's plan, and the stakes feel dramatically low. Instead, Quivoron spends more time on the burgeoning relationship between Julia and Ophélie (Antonia Buresi, who also serves as co-writer), which both derails the film's momentum and ultimately leads the story nowhere.
It's a downright baffling decision to bookend it with the most exciting stunts, especially when Julia's assimilation into the group should call for a ramping-up of wheelies and motorcycle wizardry.
There's a great film in here somewhere, and Lola Quivoron tries her hardest to race away with her audience's hearts, but 'Rodeo' is at times too half-baked to pull off all of its tricks. Hopefully this isn't a case, like Julia, of a young talent burning too bright, too soon.